When Michigan became a state on January 26, 1837, it was a land of vast forests and marshland which made travel to the interior extremely difficult. In order to help the movement of new settler's inland, the state legislature passed the Internal Improvement Act, which provided for three railroads and two canals.
The most ambitious of these improvements was a canal 216 miles long from Mount Clemens to a now extinct village named Singapore at Lake Michigan. Approval of the canal construction was popular because many who came to Michigan traveled by way of the newly completed Erie Canal and understood the advantages of canal travel. Clinton Township and the Clinton River were, in fact named after Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York who was instrumental in the construction of the Erie Canal.
On July 20, 1838, Michigan's first Governor, Stephen T. Mason, came to Mount Clemens and dedicated the beginning of the canal. The actual start and first sections were completed in Clinton Township
Thousands of men, mostly Irish immigrants, worked with pick and shovel to dig the canal, which was about 50 feet wide with locks to raise and lower the boats as the elevations changed. Work progressed as far as the city of Rochester but had to be abandoned several times because money was becoming increasingly difficult to raise. Finally, there was no more money and the state dropped any further new work on the canal in 1845.
One boat the "Uncle Peter" did travel the canal for two years between Utica and the village of Frederick, the eastern terminus. Frederick was located just across the Clinton River from Canal Park.
For many years, the canal water was used to supply power for several mills in Frederick, Utica and Rochester.
Many of the canal workers eventually, settled in this area when they were given land grants in lieu of wages owed to them.
Remains of a lock were found in Canal Park and in September of 2004 another lock was uncovered while a new storm sewer line was being dug for a new strip mall. The lock was located along Canal Road just east of Hayes. This lock was dug up and the beams were taken to a landfill. The Clinton Township Historical Commission was able to save some of the unearthed items.